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School district eyes changes for Cascade Locks High School

This year’s juniors might be the last students to graduate from Cascade Locks High School. Declining enrollment in Cascade Locks and growing student numbers at Hood River Valley High School suggest the need to examine whether or not to keep Cascade Locks a K-12 school, Superintendent Jerry Sessions said this week. The district has begun studying the idea of changing the school to a kindergarten-through-eighth grade facility, effective in 2003-04. CLHS students would attend Hood River Valley High School or regional community colleges. “We need to start a conversation about the future of Cascade Locks High School,” Sessions said. “We are not talking about closing the school; we are committed to keeping a school open in Cascade Locks.” Sessions said he wants the district to reach a decision by March 2003, when the schools’ funding picture for the next year is known. In what is the start of an extended discussion, Sessions and first-year principal Chris Daniels met with a group of a dozen Cascade Locks citizens Tuesday to discuss what he acknowledges would involve a major change for the Cascade Locks community. “We want input from the community,” Sessions said. He appears likely to receive it. “To the residents of Cascade Locks the closing of the high school is not feasible and not desirable,” said Dr. Robin Voetterl, a Cascade Locks resident who is helping facilitate discussions with the district. “In our minds there is no question. It is a moot suggestion and we are going to work as hard as we can with the county and the city and the school district staff and our own staff to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Voetterl (pronounced va-TEL). Sessions said the idea of making Cascade Locks K-8 arises from fiscal reality, given the disparate class sizes at the two high schools. Class sizes average about 11 students at CLHS, compared with about 28 at HRVHS. HRVHS will lose 2.33 teaching positions in 2002-03 if the proposed budget is approved next month. Under the proposed budget Cascade Locks’ teaching staff would lose one-half a position, at the elementary level. Sessions said that because of state graduation requirements, CLHS staffing could not be reduced. Sessions said a number of options are open to consideration, including going to a K-10 enrollment at Cascade Locks, and allowing students to take classes at Mt. Hood Community College or Columbia Gorge Community College. The future of Cascade Locks School will be discussed in the school band room on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., during a meeting of an existing visioning group for the school. The group includes students and community members, Sessions said.

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